First Read For May 19


Reform Jews worship in off-limits Western Wall area

Hundreds of Reform Jews from around the world held an egalitarian Torah-reading service yesterday at an area of the Western Wall deemed off limits to worshippers, Haaretz reports. Security guards at the Wall did not prevent them from bringing Torah scrolls into the Jewish holy site, and haredi worshippers praying nearby did not try to disrupt the Reform service.

This was the first time in recent history that non-Orthodox Jews have held a Torah reading service, in which women participated, with no interferences in the upper plaza of the Western Wall, according to Haaretz.

The Reform participants were attending the biennial conference of the World Union of Progressive Judaism.

New Haven rabbi ordered to pay $15 in rape case

A federal jury yesterday awarded $15 million to a New Jersey man who accused a prominent New Haven rabbi of repeatedly raping and molesting as a teenager, the Hartford Courant reports. Rabbi Daniel Greer and his Yeshiva of New Haven were ordered to pay the compensatory damages to Eliyahu Mirlis, who alleged  that the rabbi sexually abused him while a student at the Jewish boarding school from 2001 to 2005.

Rabbi Greer, founder of The Gan School and Yeshiva of New Haven, is a former member of the New Haven police commissioners’ board and a past chairman of the New Haven Redevelopment Agency.

A $149 ticket to Israel? Hold onto your money

An unbelievably cheap airline ticket to Israel probably shouldn’t be believed, the Jerusalem Post cautioned yesterday. The paper cautions against accepting claims in a series of recent newspaper ads from Iceland-based WOW air promoting a flight from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv to New York on WOW air.

Writes the Post, the no-frills flight goes through Reykjavik; and the $149 price is only for a one-way ticket, with no guarantee that the same fare applies for a return trip.

Was Trump’s intelligence source not Israel, but Jordan?

The intelligence on an ISIS airliner bomb threat that President Trump recently gave to Russian officials originated in part with Jordanian spies, not Israelis, according to Al Jazeera. The Arabic news service cited “veteran Jordanian intelligence officials” who said “they don’t believe Israel has any high level spies inside ISIL and depends instead on ‘intelligence sharing with Arab spy services partners.’”

President cancels visit to Masada

President Donald Trump has canceled a planned visit and speech at Masada after authorities told him that he could not land his helicopter on top of the UNESCO-listed site, Newsweek reports. Instead, Trump, who will visit Israel next week, will deliver a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

An Israeli Air Force regulation prevents helicopters landing at the summit of the Masada site, because helicopters on approach create dust, making landing at the desert site 1,300 feet above sea level precarious. 

Trump’s popularity plummets in Israel

The percentage of Jewish Israelis who consider President Trump more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian “has taken a nosedive since his inauguration,”, according to a poll published yesterday in the Jerusalem Post. Only 56% of Jewish Israelis said they considered the Trump administration more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian, down from 79% on January 11.

But the 23% of Israelis who no longer believe the administration is more pro-Israel did not shift to believing it is more pro-Palestinian. There was only a one percentage point increase in people who consider the administration to be more pro-Palestinian, rising from 3% to 4%.

Did Jared, Ivanka get rabbinical permission to fly on Shabbat?

President Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, both Orthodox Jews, have reportedly received rabbinic approval to fly with the president as he sets off today for a Middle Eastern and European trip, the Times of Israel reports.

A White House official said that the two have received a rabbinical dispensation to join the president aboard Air Force One as he sets off on his first overseas tour, the paper said, citing a Politico story. Jewish law does not permit traveling on the Sabbath except in cases where there is a danger of risk to life.